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Peripheral Gift-Giving

Ok, so that’s probably not the most
flattering title, but it’s the best I could come up with.
Hopefully you know what I mean. I’m not talking about giving
gifts to people you don’t really care about – those are
gifts, to me, best left un-given, money and energy better directed
elsewhere. But that’s a blog for another day.

No, when I talk about peripheral gift-giving, I mean all the people
in your life that you want to recognize and honor in some small
way, but that you may not know well enough to come up with a truly
personal gift. I’m thinking of preschool teachers, Sunday
school volunteers, soccer coaches or ballet teachers, even mothers
you don’t know well in your large mom’s group.
I’ve polled (very unscientifically) several friends of mine
who are teachers, and found out what they like and what
doesn’t work so well.

First up – gift cards. We always
want to say “thank you” but hate to spend money on
something they won’t like or will simply pass on to someone
else. That’s probably why hands-down the gift I kept hearing
mentioned was gift cards. Everyone I talked to said receiving a
gift card with several possibilities is awesome. A gift card to
somewhere like Target, for example, could be used to buy family
groceries, school supplies for an out-of-budget art project, or a
cute new t-shirt. One friend of mine doesn’t drink coffee but
loved getting some homemade biscotti with a $10 gift-card to
Starbucks, knowing she could use the card for tea or one of those
frozen drinks or even, on a decadent day, some of that awesome hot
chocolate. A small amount isn’t insulting, so don’t
worry; any amount at all is appreciated.

And if you want to do a gift card plus something personal,
it’s easy to get creative. For one thing, I mentioned that
Starbucks card with the homemade biscotti, but you can go beyond
that. I found these great href="http://www.delight.com/RuMe-Reusable-Holiday-Gift-Wrap"
target="_blank">reusable gift bags
– they’re a
hip, nylon bag rather than the typical paper gift bags, and people
can use them for lunch bags, fruit, shopping errands, and more. Put
a gift card in one of these bags and you’re giving two gifts
in one! If you live near a Whole Foods store, I think they make
great gift certificates because you can get groceries, jewelry,
scented candles, makeup – the options are many and it all
feels a little pampering because it’s an upscale, natural

Next, let’s talk about the food thing. I’ve had a mixed
response on this, so know that up front. On the one hand,
I’ve had teachers beg me to ask people not to give food
– for one thing, they’re simply overloaded with sweets
this time of year, and for another, they may not like what
you’re making (yes, I know your chow-chow is famous, but not
everyone likes it) and will feel bad throwing good food away.

On the other hand, if food is something you’re good at, my
poll says go for it. One girlfriend got an awesome homemade salsa
last year; another received a plate of amazing, home-decorated
sugar cookies. If you make your own jelly, chances are you’ll
have a hit on your hands.

Other great ideas include stationery (put stamps in there and
she’ll like you even more) or even just a nice note telling
the teacher what an impact she’s had on your child this year,
a gift certificate for a free manicure at someplace near the
school, coupons to a movie theatre, that sort of thing. Pampering
without being too specific.

On the down side, here’s a partial list I got of
least-favorite gifts: jewelry (hard to know your teacher’s
taste, even harder to pin it down on your tiny budget), picture
frames (you’d be surprised how many they get), ornaments for
the tree (one teacher said she’s got enough for two trees
now, just from students), and anything scented. I know we all love
to give scented candles or lotions because they seem feminine and
are easy to pick up, but if you don’t know this person well
enough to give them a truly personal gift you probably don’t
know them well enough to pick out their favorite scent. Sorry. I
was also asked to include small decorative items on the
least-favorite list – items like figurines or statues or
somesuch. They do say “thinking of you”, and
that’s nice, but I think the ten bucks on a Ben and Jerrys
gift certificate will probably fit into their house décor

If you’ve given a teacher one of these gifts already this
year, please don’t despair. Teachers are thrilled with any
gift at all, and don’t “hate” any of them –
they simply get overwhelmed sometimes with sheer volume this time
of year, which is why I’m here to help you out.

And finally, think about doing a donation thing. I love a charity
called target="_blank">World Vision, and they’ve got an
amazing “href="http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?go=gift&&section=10024&daniel_prod_ses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
target="_blank">gift catalog
” for Christmas time.
Thirty bucks will buy school supplies for an underprivileged child
here in the U.S. for a whole school year; twenty bucks brings art
and music education to children in countries like El Salvador or
Romania. World Vision will send an awesome gift card explaining
where the money’s going for you to pass on to the gift
recipient, and the entire gift’s tax deductible. I’ve
given these to many people over the years, and have seen people
moved to tears over them. Just something to consider.

So hopefully now you feel a little bit better about the fact that
school’s ending next week and you’re not quite prepared
to say thank-you to the staff - just stop at a favorite store, pick
up a few gift cards, and you're done.

As for everything else on that big to-do list of yours,
you’re on your own.


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